Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

'Enlightened Shareholder Value': Corporate Governance Beyond the Shareholder-Stakeholder Divide

Journal of Corporation Law, Vol. 36, No. 1, p. 59, 2010

54 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2009 Last revised: 3 Feb 2014

Virginia E. Harper Ho

University of Kansas - School of Law

Date Written: August 11, 2010


The global financial crisis has led to calls for greater corporate accountability and heightened controls over public corporations. As a result, the past year has seen a marked increase in regulatory initiatives that give shareholders a greater voice in corporate affairs. While debate continues to rage in the academy and beyond over the promise and pitfalls of shareholder empowerment, an important undercurrent in the controversy is the potential impact of "shareholder democracy" on corporate stakeholders.

This Article urges a vision of the corporation and its purpose that transcends the shareholder-stakeholder divide. Under this "enlightened shareholder value" approach, which has been introduced statutorially in the United Kingdom, attention to corporate stakeholders, including the environment, employees, and local communities, is seen as critical to generating long-term shareholder wealth.

This Article observes that a similar paradigm is now being advanced in the U.S. by leading institutional investors who also identify stakeholder interests as key to long-term firm financial performance and effective risk management. It moves beyond prior literature by articulating a statement of the corporate purpose that is consistent with an investor-driven enlightened shareholder value approach and presents normative arguments in its favor. The Article then considers how enlightened shareholder value intersects with existing corporate governance rules in the U.S. context and the extent to which it in fact represents a departure from the standard shareholder wealth maximization norm. In so doing, it offers a response to some of the concerns surrounding corporate stakeholders that have been raised by skeptics of greater shareholder voice.

Keywords: enlightened shareholder value, stakeholder, ESG, risk management, institutional investor, shareholder activism, shareholder primacy, director primacy, Principles for Responsible Investment, PRI, SRI

JEL Classification: G23, K22

Suggested Citation

Harper Ho, Virginia E., 'Enlightened Shareholder Value': Corporate Governance Beyond the Shareholder-Stakeholder Divide (August 11, 2010). Journal of Corporation Law, Vol. 36, No. 1, p. 59, 2010. Available at SSRN: or

Virginia E. Ho (Contact Author)

University of Kansas - School of Law ( email )

Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States
785-864-9217 (Phone)
785-864-5054 (Fax)


Paper statistics

Abstract Views